Not Bad for the New Guy: Thames Hits Walk-Off Hit
SEATTLE (AP) — The Tampa Bay Rays lost a pair of positive streaks during a stunning ninth-inning loss to the Seattle Mariners.
A rare error by Gold Glove first baseman Carlos Pena led to two unearned runs against Tampa Bay closer Fernando Rodney and gave the Rays a 3-2 loss that snapped their seven-game winning streak on Tuesday night.
Rodney (2-2) hadn’t blown a save since May 26, and this one ended a run of 22 consecutive saves. Eric Thames had already struck out three straight times when he came to the plate with two outs.
The Mariners were all even with the Rays after Justin Smoak’s sacrifice fly off of Rodney, who came into the game with a 0.82 ERA and the AL lead in saves. Chone Figgins stood on third, and Thames fell into an 0-2 hole.
Thames took a pitch and then focused on low and away. He was able to flip Rodney’s next changeup into short right field to score Figgins and snap the two long streaks.
“Casper (Wells) said to me in the seventh inning, ‘Hey, in the ninth, you’ll be the hero, don’t worry about it,'” Thames said. “It’s crazy how this game works.”
Kyle Seager started the winning rally with a single to right field off Rodney, and pinch-hitter Figgins pushed a bunt that Pena fielded. Pena glanced at second, pivoted, double-clutched, and then threw wide of first base for just his fifth error of the season.
Seager sprinted to third, and Figgins advanced to second. Smoak’s deep fly to center field scored Seager to tie the game.
“(Carlos) makes that play 100 out of 100 times,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “That was the 101st time, I guess, right there.”
Rodney went to Pena in the clubhouse to tell him not to worry about the play. Pena, however, was frustrated.
“I still believe that if I stuck with my gut instinct, and I go after that ball and grab it, turn and throw to second, it would have been a close play,” Pena said. “I didn’t trust my gut.”
Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore allowed one run and six hits in seven innings. He struck out nine and walked one. The Rays’ staff has the best ERA in the majors since the All-Star break.
Moore came out of the game after 95 pitches. Maddon went to Joel Peralta and Rodney for the fourth consecutive day to pitch the eighth and ninth innings.
“I felt and still feel very confident to hand the ball to Peralta like that, and Rodney,” Moore said. “The game will play a little bit of tricks with you. If you’re not perfect, things like that can happen.”
Rodney said he felt strong.
“It’s part of the game,” Rodney said. “Some day you make a good play, some day, we don’t make it well.”
Kevin Millwood gave up two runs and eight hits in seven innings for Seattle. He struck out a season-high eight.
Stephen Pryor (2-0) pitched 1 2-3 innings of relief for the win.
Four pitches into the game, Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead. Desmond Jennings singled and B.J. Upton followed with a broken-bat fly ball to left that became a triple when Trayvon Robinson dove but failed to make the catch.
Jennings scored, and Upton had his second triple of the season. Evan Longoria’s sacrifice fly to right scored Upton.
Miguel Olivo followed with a double that drove in Smoak and pulled the Mariners within 2-1 in the second inning.
Moore and Millwood controlled things from there.
Jeff Keppinger doubled to left, and Pena walked with two out in the Rays’ fourth. Millwood then fell behind Ryan Roberts 3-0 before coming back to strike him out and end the threat.
Millwood wriggled out of trouble again in the fifth when Jennings and Upton hit consecutive singles. Millwood struck out Matt Joyce and Longoria to end the inning. He struck out Keppinger and Pena in the sixth, setting a season-high with eight strikeouts. Joyce struck out three times.
The Rays pressured Millwood more in the seventh when Roberts and Jose Molina began the inning with singles. Jennings, already 3-for-3, bounced a high grounder toward third base to Seager, who started a double play. Millwood then retired Upton.
NOTES: The Mariners placed 1B Mike Carp on the 15-day disabled list because of a strained left groin. … The Rays have the lowest team ERA, bullpen ERA and opponents’ batting average since the All-Star break. … Tampa Bay also leads the majors in strikeouts (284) since the break. … The Mariners promoted this year’s top draft pick, Mike Zunino, from rookie-level Everett to Double-A Jackson. … Seager has a hit in eight consecutive home games.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.